Top Budget Tips for Catering


According to wedding-planning website Bridebook, the average cost of a wedding in the UK is over £27,000, with almost £6,000 of that spent on catering. Whilst we all want a dream wedding, there’s nothing less romantic than starting married life with a large debt.

Many catering companies charge more in peak season, on Saturdays and at other times of the year when demand is high such as public holidays. So the first of our catering budget tips is to marry out of the peak wedding season.

The obvious tips for keeping your catering budget in check include reducing your guest list since menus are generally priced per head. Also, marrying later in the day allows for an early evening meal, with just cheese-boards and cake later on.

Here we have some other catering budget tips to help you have a reception that you and your guests will enjoy:

The bar

drinksThere are several tips to help your catering budget when it comes to drinks, ask your venue if you can bring your own, taking advantage of the excellent supermarket offers on alcohol. Some venues, particularly hotels, will refuse or charge such high corkage it’s not worth it. Ask if you can purchase on a sale or return basis so you can be sure not to run out.

Instead of a full bar, serve beer, wine and soft drinks. If you want spirits, go mid-range rather than top-shelf brands that can be a third more expensive. You don’t need Champagne. Guests can toast you with the drinks they have in hand or try sparkling wines like Cremant, Cava or Prosecco.

If you want to provide a signature drink ask your catering company to dress them up with fun garnishes such as curled lemon and lime peels, orange slices or mini fruit kebabs on toothpicks to coordinate with your wedding colours. These garnishes are often free, and you appear to have spent more than you actually have.

The seated meal

Top budget tips for a seated meal suggest that you really don’t need a five course meal. A three-course meal that includes a soup or salad and finishes with wedding cake is plenty of food for your guests.

It's better to serve a beautifully prepared, simple menu, than to use expensive ingredients that may not appeal to everyone. Another of our budget tips is to use a fantastic sauce on less expensive chicken or pasta dishes, an espresso sauce over chicken, for example or pumpkin ravioli.

Provide a children’s menu

Keep within budget by offering a simple menu for younger guests. Some catering companies offer free or half-priced meals for children up to age 16. You could also request a simpler menu for your wedding photographer and musicians.

Hors d'oeuvres

hors d'oeuvresWhile you don’t want your guests to be hungry, you don’t need to overfeed them either. Serving tips include offering a maximum of three prepared hors d'oeuvres during cocktail hour. Use less expensive entrée ingredients such as artichoke hearts, broccoli flowers and radishes cut in heart shapes with dipping sauces. If you must include expensive ingredients, ask your caterer to create an hors d'oeuvre that celebrates the ingredient, yet uses it sparingly for example a mini blini with crème fraiche and a pinch of caviare.


Focus on the presentation of your food. Tips include using serving trays that are a bit different, which add flare to the fare at no cost. You can pile cocktail tables high with beautiful spreads of crudités and dips, plates of artisan cheeses and baskets of gourmet crackers and fresh breads in unusual, bright baskets and platters. Adding big bowls of colourful salads with grilled vegetables allows you to show generosity without spending a lot.

Informal Service

Formal silver service requires waiting staff which adds to your budget. Buffets are a good option as guests can help themselves. Our budget tips suggest you consider barbecues, street food stalls or afternoon-tea parties as a more contemporary adaptation. Alternatively, choose a family style dinner where each table serves themselves, this is a good way to get guests talking together as well as saving you money.

Theme stations

asian food stationThe Asian station is a popular option with food set out in large woks or served in take-out containers that coordinate with the wedding’s theme or colours. With pyramids of basmati and jasmine rice, lots of egg noodles and a range of condiments, these inexpensive ingredients look as though you’ve invested a lot.

Cakes and Desserts

The simplest of tips suggests including a wedding cake plus one additional dessert such as chocolate-covered strawberries instead of a vast dessert table. Keep your wedding cake simple without expensive fillings. Butter-cream icing will cost you less than rolled fondant and leave out elaborate sugar-paste ornamentation to save more money.